NASA prepares to deflect asteroid in mission that can one day save Earth

The first-of-its-kind mission - called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission - will see a spacecraft crash into an asteroid to see if it is possible to change its trajectory.

 This image mosaic of asteroid 253 Mathilde releaseed by NASA 30 June is constructed from four images acquired by the NEAR spacecraft on 27 June. The images were taken from a distance of 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) with sunlight coming from the upper right. (photo credit: NASA/AFP via Getty Images)
This image mosaic of asteroid 253 Mathilde releaseed by NASA 30 June is constructed from four images acquired by the NEAR spacecraft on 27 June. The images were taken from a distance of 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) with sunlight coming from the upper right.
(photo credit: NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

NASA will conduct a test man has never done before when it attempts on Monday to deflect an asteroid with a spacecraft. The outcome could be the difference between Earth's potential extinction and saving mankind from a future catastrophe. 

The first-of-its-kind mission - called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission - will see a spacecraft intentionally crash into an asteroid to see if it is possible to change its trajectory.

The spacecraft took off Vandenberg Space Force Base in California in November and has been moving at roughly 14,000 kph toward its target, a 160-meter-wide asteroid called Dimorphos.

 A placard hangs on the wall during the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Technology Media Workshop Telecon Briefing and tour at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, on September 12, 2022, ahead of the September 26 project test mission. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES) A placard hangs on the wall during the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Technology Media Workshop Telecon Briefing and tour at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, on September 12, 2022, ahead of the September 26 project test mission. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

The spacecraft will aim to collide with Dimorphos within 11 million kilometers of Earth, so scientists can study whether the impact changed the object’s flight trajectory. 

According to NASA, the DART spacecraft – which is a box-size at about 1.2 x 1.3 x 1.3 meters – will impact with the 160-meter asteroid on September 26 at 7:14pm Eastern Time.

An asteroid impact is one of the worst possible natural disasters that could occur. The danger of even small ones is something well-known to experts, with space agencies around the world monitoring for potential catastrophic impacts, as well as researching potential means of stopping them.

Asteroids regularly skim by the earth but until now they have not struck in a way that endangered mankind.

The last known significant asteroid impact was on February 15, 2013, when an asteroid exploded in the air above Chelyabinsk, Russia. While it didn't cause any fatalities, the shock wave from the explosion shattered windows in six different Russian cities and caused 1,500 people to need medical attention.

NASA tracks asteroids and on Friday, for example, two passed the earth from a safe distance. The first is believed to have a diameter ranging from 29 meters to 65 meters - close to the wingspan of a Boeing 747 jet - and the second one is slightly smaller.